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Restaurants

Cafe Bar Pasta

Posted by Jen Hunter / Profiled on August 15, 2013 / review policy

Cafe Bar Pasta TorontoCafe Bar Pasta opened its doors at the end of July to the Dundas West neighbourhood, bringing a friendly, family style restaurant and cafe (don't forget bar) to the hood with great touches of artistic modern elegance.

It's apparent upon arrival that Owner Tom Bielecki (along with wife and designer Christine) has a flair for art and fashion, from the massive cork wall (that customers can contribute to after partaking in a bottle) to the huge mural that wraps itself around the dining room, or the MOMA chandelier. The space was Tom's father-in-law's old insurance office and the very place he asked him for permission to marry Christine.

Cafe Bar Pasta TorontoThe space embraces the three concepts suggested by the name: when you arrive there is a beautiful communal butcher block style table made of a hard white and wormy maple, with built in power outlets for your computer or phone, along with an exposed brick wall and the latest paper or magazine hanging conveniently. Need some java and a snack while reading or perusing the internet? - no problem.

Cafe Bar Pasta TorontoAs for the coffee, we try an espresso ($2.50) with a chocolate, Grand Marnier salted biscotti ($1.50) both go down very easily, and tempt me and my dining companion to try one of the other pastries on offer, all made in house (by pastry chef Kristopher Lavoie). However, we are here for all 3 of the dining experiences, and must save some room. Next stop: the bar.

Cafe Bar Pasta TorontoBar manager James Playford (formerly of Campagnolo) is excited to show me some of his drink concoctions including the Mexican Standoff $15 - starting with a housemade sangria base, James then adds Tromba tequila, Emmascarado mezcal, Amarena cherry syrup and egg white. Garnished with an espelette pepper powder the end result is a smoky, sour, sweet drink with a hint of spice. Truly inventive and delicious.

Cafe Bar Pasta TorontoThe bar has seven taps as well, with only one of them being beer, although there are 4-6 bottles or cans of craft brew that change on a regular basis. The rest are wine taps, showcasing reds, whites, and sparkling wine from Ontario. James explains that the wine goes from the barrel to the glass and is never exposed to air, helping to shield the wine from the effects of oxygen, bottle shock and cork.

So far, so good. So how does Chef Edward Furlani's menu stack up against the decor and impressive beverage offering? In all honesty, it absolutely shines.

Cafe Bar Pasta TorontoOur first plate is the Kitfo ($15), a take on the traditional beef tartare. Sanagan's beef tenderloin is chopped and blended with house made ghee, cardamom, daikon, and pistachios topped with micro greens and accompanied with housemade lavash flatbread. The beef is soft and tender while the pistachios and lavash lend an added crunch for texture.

Cafe Bar Pasta TorontoNext up are the Meatballs ($8). Growing up with Italian parents, I always find myself to be scrutinizing my childhood favourite every time someone other than my Mom makes them, but these confound my family pride: 3 tender, moist balls of beef and deliciously fatty pork. Not too big, and covered with a simple and tasty tomato sauce and fresh parm. Nothing over-reaching or complex, but everything a meatball should be, with a little extra sauce to soak up with fresh bread. My dining partner and I squabbled over the last one!

Cafe Bar Pasta TorontoThe Orata tartar ($12) could be my favourite item of the day, this fresh sea bream is sliced heavenly thin and marinated in lime, honey, olive oil and mint, and served with fried black squid ink pasta and a raspberry compote, this is the reason this place will have me coming back again and again.

Cafe Bar Pasta TorontoOne of the main features of the restaurant is the stunning pasta drying room beneath the dining area. It's clear that these guys take their pasta very seriously, and the Bucantini Amatriciana ($16) doesn't disappoint. A (slightly thicker) spaghetti style noodle with a hole in the centre (to allow for maximum tomato sauce coverage) is slathered with a lovely simple sauce of tomato, onion, chillies and pieces of pork jowl. The pasta is outstanding with an amazing bite and texture.

Cafe Bar Pasta TorontoWe finish with the daily selection of semifreddo ($6), there are usually 8 on any given day. We try the Lizan herbal tea, Oh Henry, and vanilla bean. Again made in-house, these rounded out the experience really nicely.

For such a small space, Cafe Bar Pasta manages to accomplish quite a few different things (also incorporating a private dining room, and plans are underway for cooking classes in the coming months). This all sounds a bit ambitious, but they're definitely delivering on all three fronts right now.

Cafe Bar Pasta TorontoUPDATE: Chef Edward Furlani is no longer at Cafe Bar Pasta as of September 2013. Photos by Jesse Milns

Discussion

14 Comments

Mike / August 15, 2013 at 10:28 am
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The (slightly thicker) spaghetti style noodle with a hole in the centre is called bucatini.
Guy / August 15, 2013 at 11:02 am
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A $15 cocktail!
Well Paid....Not Wealthy / August 19, 2013 at 12:16 pm
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I rather pay $15 for a good drink, then $10 for a shitty vodka water....
KH&MO / August 28, 2013 at 10:38 am
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At Café Bar Pasta, the quality and care that goes into everything from the décor to the uniform aprons, drinks, and most importantly food is not only tasted or seen, but felt.
Executive Chef Edward Furlani is as passionate, talented and friendly as they come. He not only takes the time to greet customers with a huge smile from the kitchen when you walk in, but if time permits, even weaves his way through the dining area. Tales of his past experiences and cooking history leave you exicted to try any one of his dishes. The meatballs are wonderfully rich and succulent, the meat almost melting on your tongue; the salumi appetizer is just as tasty and the meat has a creamy flavour and texture to it. I am partial to lemony, tangy flavours with my scallops, and the scallop main satisfies all of that. The risotto is creamy, zesty and the peas pop ever so delicately. The scallops were expertly cooked: cripsy and caramelized on both sides. The Bucantini Amatriciana is just as delicious, with a plate of larger, thicker noodles perfectly shaped to pick up all the sauce it possibly can. And you’ll want to pick it all up, it’s that good. The panne cotta is deliciously refreshing, especially on a hot summer’s night and is almost too beautiful to eat with flower petals atop a ginger layer followed by a vanilla bean layer.
The bartenders are artists in their profession, mixing an endless array of drinks, cocktails, anything really! They blend all of this talent with humourous stories and witty comments that will make you want to extend your stay past the meal. Ask for the 'Easy Rider'...no comments needed.
There is a room on the lower level which can be rented for parties and larger groups which features large glass-enclosed wine storage and a view of the pasta-making and drying area. This room also features private speakers which can be hooked up to any apple device (iPhone, iPad, etc.). The washrooms are clean and modern and smell refreshingly sweet.
The staff is very friendly and knowledgeable. The music and atmosphere is that of the 1950’s-1960’s.
This place feeds all of your senses and leaves you with a feeling that compares to few restaurants. We will be trying to find reasons to go back again and again!
David Spur / September 11, 2013 at 01:33 am
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The music was far too loud for me and my wife and was reminiscent of trashy club music not well suited for the setting. The portions were far too small for the price, however tasted good. The drinks were expensive, 15 dollars for any drink is questionable. It was strange not seeing any of the staple comfort foods you would expect from an Italian restaurant . It seems an odd fit for the area and frankly pretentious. Wont be going back, if your looking for fine dinning Italian go to Sotto Sotto, Spuntini or Donatello.
Tom Bielecki / September 16, 2013 at 06:13 pm
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Hey guys, thanks for the comments.

Please check out our website www.cafe-bar-pasta.com as it will help some as to what we do AND what our price points are.


Tom Bielecki
Owner @cafebarpasta
Frank / September 18, 2013 at 02:29 pm
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Was in for dinner the other night. Delicious food slightly pricey for what you get, the drinks were amazing and staff fantastic. This is my second time here was surprised to see a new chef. Keep up the good work.
Mike Long / October 7, 2013 at 03:33 pm
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food was Great!!
Adam Jenner / October 12, 2013 at 11:39 pm
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Cafe Bar Pasta, or maybe it just never should of been named because quite frankly, Whoever thought that was a good idea for a name should be smacked and they evidently have no idea about marketing what-so-ever. Lets move on to the overpriced drinks , a Rose.. $15 for a glass? Are you kidding me, it wasn't even any good, what confuses me was the owner going on about having an exclusive sommelier of wine and my 4 year old son could of picked a better flavour ( Not that my child has ever tasted wine, which makes what I said a pretty blatant statement). The cocktail my wife got was quite delicious, but not worth more than $10 at even a well established fine dining venue.

The food was nothing short of awful and bland,I could spend way more time telling you about the atrocious mash up of flavours and I almost threw up after being plated with ravioli with a side order of bone marrow, and I couldn't even eat one of my $20 raviolis because I was so turned off with that display, another stomach turner was that I was there for apparently garbage day, where they sat my wife and I with a wonderful surrounding of garbage smell, which was made even worse when the owner continued to talk about the establishment and himself like they were both involved in the second coming of Christ which was a serious turn off on top of the extremely poor food and alcohol selections as well. We appreciated that he insisted on giving us "complimentary" drinks as I'm sure he could read our tone of disapproval , but what we needed wasn't a charity and to be insulted, it was for him to maybe slow down on the sauce himself, and it was made very difficult to have a romantic dinner out with my wife and we were both very turned off from an experience that we were both quite looking forward to.

We will not be returning, and we do not recommend it for anyone else, it's not family friendly, it's overpriced, the location is mediocre at best, the staff seemed very willing but very relaxed in their place not having decent anything other than decor. I will give them that, they clearly spent an arm and a leg on making a hole in the wall look slightly modern.... maybe they should have put more of that money into actually making a decent dining experience and menu.

0.5/5
Eastender replying to a comment from Adam Jenner / October 19, 2013 at 05:37 pm
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This is a ridiculous review. Went there last night and had a killer meal. Owner was great host, chef came out and said hi, staff was pleasant and helpful (even brought out one of their monster 60oz steaks so we could take a peak at what it looked like).

You were grossed out by the ravioli coming out with a bone for the marrow? Did you not read the menu? Only a few words are there to describe the ravioli... two of them are BONE MARROW! Why would you order something that was going to gross you out and then complain about it? Also, this isn't exactly the first place in Toronto to put bone marrow on the menu!

I like the critique that it is "not family friendly". I don't see why it isn't, but also, if it was very "family friendly" I probably wouldn't go. I'm sure there is an Applebees booth with your name on it out there.
Eastender replying to a comment from Adam Jenner / October 19, 2013 at 05:38 pm
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To be clear, I meant the Adam Jenner comment was the ridiculous review. The actual article is on point
Paul / May 24, 2014 at 08:26 am
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This was our fourth visit to Cafe Bar Pasta and it just keeps getting better and better. Owner Tom Bielecki is not one to sit on his laurels but instead is always moving his resto forward with new and improved cocktails and evolving menu that gets more interesting and artistic every time we go. The staff is super friendly and knowledgable about the menu and drinks and the choices of wines are extensive. Tom is always there to make you feel at home as well as make sure things are running smoothly. This is a neighbourhood staple for us and we highly recommend it.
Lily / June 10, 2014 at 11:35 am
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not wanting to sound rude but me and my boyfriend have been here about 3 different times, each time was worst then the last, the first time we went was when they first opened in July of 2013 we meet the chef the severs were nice they knew there stuff but by the 3rd time we went we were not happy with the taste of the food the severs were not very nice didn't know much about the menu ideas and we found them to be very push about the wine on tap. call me old but I don't believe my wine should come from a keg and I didn't like being pushed to try that. all in all went back because we enjoy it the first time but now no, that and we notice that they have way to much of a turn around so there stuff don't know anything
Ryan / July 8, 2014 at 02:25 pm
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Kind of similar downhill experience to Lily above - the first time we went was right when this place opened and we were very happy. So happy that we came back with a few friends. This time around the food wasn't as good and everything just generally felt underwhelming for a dining out experience. Still, we thought our first visit was good enough to have us try it again - and the last time we went things wound up a lot worse. The service was so slow, not to mention the food didn't go back to it's initial standards. We left feeling sort of ripped off, and tired from having the whole thing take too long. Overall, a bummer of a meal. Will not heading back for a round 4.

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